There was 5569 product safety notifications (3205 in food) issued via the primary European agencies, said the Stericycle 2013 European Recall and Notification Index.
The food industry saw the majority of notifications in 2013, with 58%, which is not surprising given the volume and sensitivity of the products involved, said the firm.
Fruits and vegetables pulled in 642 notifications, fish 311 and nuts in 272.
Voluntary recall push
To strengthen ties with customers and comply with regulations, more companies are voluntarily taking their products off the market with a 29% increase across industries from 2012 to 2013.
Farzad Henareh, managing director Europe for the recall division, told FoodQualityNews.com that supply chains are complex with multiple products across different countries.
“The theme of the index is taking control which you can see with the rise of voluntary recalls in the European market from 2012 so companies are taking more control and being more proactive without mandatory regulation,” he said.
“The regulatory environment is constantly changing with stricter EU market surveillance and a package to improve consumer product safety coming into effect in 2015.
“Europe is the biggest global market and has many complexities with the different national authorities to make it a more equal playing field.”
Henareh said the market was moving towards the US model of 90% voluntary recalls in North America, with the EU total standing at 21%.
Italy initiated 534 food related notifications in 2013, the most in Europe, and disproportional by population size to the next two countries: UK (327) and Germany (331).
More notifications by country of origin came from China– 14% of all those issued. The next highest were India with 8% and Turkey with 7%.
This highlights issues with globalisation and the supply chain, and the associated quality checking process.
Henareh said the firm offers recall preparation, gap analysis, simulation of recalls and education and information to the market.
“Allergens and mislabelling is the number one cause of recalls, it is not a direct safety issue with the product but that and country of origin and traceability is important because of complex supply chains.
“One example is we managed a recall in pharmaceutical for 32 countries and it involved North America, Canada and the US were you needed two or three languages, English, French and Spanish. But in the EU there were 15 languages so we have facilities as it is mandated that you need native speakers to guide consumers through the process in their language.
“I expected to see the Northern EU countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, UK to have more notifications and less the Eastern Europe but it is Hungary and Bulgaria at the top.”
RASFF portal figures
Notifications were issued by the RASFF portal and 596 were classified as an ‘alert’ which means the product was recalled from the market.
Numbers of notifications issued as a result of border rejection decreased by 16% in 2013 because countries exporting to the EU face increasingly stringent legislation.
Higher levels of recent years and subsequent decline would suggest that overseas manufacturers are starting to understand and apply the relevant regulations.